RED WING -- Becky Norton has risen rapidly in local leadership, and she noted that she has worked hard to prepare.

She joined the City Council after winning a special election in August 2018 for a five-month term, then won a general election in November that same year. In 2019, Norton joined the council’s leadership team when she was nominated to serve as pro tem, meaning she was third in line to lead the meetings if the council president and vice president were not in attendance.

Council member Erin Buss, who also joined the council in 2018 as the Ward 4 representative, nominated Norton for president. Norton said of Buss’s nomination, “I was of course honored, that she saw that I had some leadership qualities, that she thought I would fit the position and that she believes that I had something to offer to the council in that capacity. And that meant something to me.”

The council unanimously voted in favor of handing Norton the gavel for 2021.

Dean Hove served as council president in 2019 and 2020. He told the Republican Eagle, “Becky Norton is an excellent choice for Red Wing City Council president. She is bright, capable, and ready to lead. Becky has been a very engaged member of our leadership team these past two years. I am looking forward to her contributions to our great city’s continued success.”

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Though Norton did not know if she would be asked to continue on the council’s leadership team in 2021, she wanted to be prepared for the possibility of being asked to take on additional responsibilities.

“I thought about a presidential or vice presidential position and really, what that meant to me is … I had to hone my own leadership skills, and make sure that if that ever came to me I was ready, I was ready to serve the council and serve the community in that capacity," she said.

"So I've really been trying to be as involved in listening with my ears as wide open as I can, watching the procedural things, and you know, watching others that have effective leadership skills in those roles and trying to take up tips and advice. Not just at the local level, but even nationwide. I look at other leaders, and I say, ‘Oh, that is a really good leadership skill that I want to make sure that I bring to the table if I ever have the opportunity.'”

As Norton prepares for the work that the council will do in 2021, she sees two main topics of focus: economic recovery and discrimination.

Norton realizes that it will take hard work to rebuild the local economy from the devastation of COVID-19.

“It's like trying to rebuild your house in a hurricane,” Norton said. “You know, with our next hurricane coming, it's nearly an impossible task. But it's not, it's not impossible. We can build shelter, and we can figure out a way to do some temporary things. Even while we plan for our future, we can start to develop, in my analogy of the hurricane, we can start to develop what our future house is going to look like and where we want to put it.

"And how are we going to safeguard it for the future? There are things that we can do even in the middle of a storm, or even as the storm is subsiding there's still work that we can do.”

Norton also spoke about what she called the “crisis of discrimination and systems.”

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody sparked protests across the nation and prompted tough local conversations.

She explained, “In light of the events that our community has experienced since last spring, there's a lot of healing and growth that we need to do as a community, there's a lot of self-reflection that we need to do. And self-reflection is hard.”

Norton added: “I see this moment in time where I feel hope I'm in the right place in the right time to see this pain that is in our community, and to be one small part of it to say 'I hear you, and I want to work for you and I want to do better.' And it will be hard and it will be painful. But I am committed to doing that.”

Norton ended her interview with the Republican Eagle on a note of hope:

“If there's anything I could try to convey it is that I'm filled with hope, that I believe. I believe in our council. I believe in our city staff. I believe that there are opportunities for growth. I believe in our residents.”